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Last Man Standing is an American television sitcom starring Tim Allen as a senior employee of a sporting goods store in Denver, Colorado, who is a married father of three daughters and a grandfather to his oldest daughter's son, Boyd.
Distributed by 20th Century Fox Television, the series originally ran on ABC from 2011 to 2017 for six seasons, and entered syndication in 2015. Despite being ABC's second-highest rated sitcom for the 2016-17 season, it was revealed in May 2017 that the network had declined to renew Last Man Standing for a seventh season. Media publications reported that ABC was unwilling to cover the production costs for a seventh season on behalf of 20th Century Fox Television. One year later, the studio's sibling network Fox announced it had picked up the show for a seventh season, which premiered on September 28, 2018.
The series follows Mike Baxter, a senior executive and director of marketing for an outdoor sporting goods store chain based in Denver, Colorado. His home life is initially filled with his wife, three daughters and a grandson, but later extends to the young men who are married to or dating his daughters.
Cast and characters
Tim Allen as Michael "Mike" Baxter: Mike is a father of three daughters and the director of marketing for the Outdoor Man chain of sporting goods stores. He fervently supports "traditional" American values, is a Protestant and is politically conservative. Mike loves his daughters but says his favorite is Eve, the youngest and most athletic daughter, and whose political opinions and interests mirror his own. He is proud of her ability to excel at anything she tries, including school work, hunting and playing sports. Mike often finds himself annoyed with Outdoor Man's young slow-witted employee Kyle (who later becomes his son-in-law), and with Ryan, his politically liberal son-in-law married to his oldest daughter, and the father of Mike's grandson, Boyd. The video blog or "vlog" that Mike does for Outdoor Man is frequently used as a vehicle to express his political views. Mike is a graduate of the University of Michigan, and an amateur radio operator using the call sign KA0XTT.
Nancy Travis as Vanessa Baxter, Mike's wife: Vanessa is a geologist working in the energy industry for a company that does hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking". In season four, Vanessa becomes frustrated with her job and decides to go back to college to become a high school science teacher. After being laid off as a teacher due to budget cuts, Vanessa begins her own tutoring business. Vanessa was ambiguous in her political views until season five, when she announces she is supporting Hillary Clinton for president, mainly because she thinks it will advance women's causes. She is shown drinking wine frequently, and is also frequently mocked by Mike and her daughters about it. She is a graduate of Ohio State University with a Master of Science degree in Physics and a PhD in Geology. Vanessa often makes attempts to be politically correct, but only highlights how uncomfortable she is trying to relate to people of other races. Despite this, she and her African-American neighbor Carol Larabee seem to get along. Vanessa's humor includes bad puns, which she thinks are amusing but really just irritate Mike and the girls to no end.
Amanda Fuller (seasons 2-present) and Alexandra Krosney (season 1) as Kristin Beth Baxter, the oldest daughter: Kristin, unlike her father, espouses liberal political views and her views with regard to Christianity seem ambiguous. During her senior year of high school, Kristin became pregnant with her son, Boyd. She was a single mother living in the Baxter home until moving out in the season two finale. She began to reconcile with Boyd's father, Ryan Vogelson, in season three, and the two get married between seasons four and five. Kristin worked at a diner until landing a job at an upscale restaurant run by a former co-worker at the end of season two. In season four, she becomes the manager of the new restaurant opened by Outdoor Man. Kristin tends to work extra hard in this new job to prove she did not get the position through nepotism, despite Mike and Ed frequently telling her she was qualified. Alexandra Krosney portrayed Kristin in the show's first season (despite being nearly two years younger than Molly Ephraim, playing Kristin's younger sister); Krosney was replaced by Amanda Fuller prior to season two for unspecified creative reasons.
Molly Ephraim (seasons 1-6) and Molly McCook (season 7-present) as Amanda Elaine "Mandy" Baxter-Anderson, the middle daughter: Mandy is not as academic as her sisters (and she has a penchant for cutting class and ignoring homework), but she excels in social situations. Interested in fashion (and little else), she was one of the most popular girls at her high school. Mandy is very confident and creative, demonstrating traits found in her father. She can be lazy, conceited, selfish, insulting, and delinquent - she drinks underage, ignores all driving laws, shoplifts from Outdoor Man, there are many implications that she smokes cannabis, and she has been caught staying out all night - but occasionally she displays moments of generosity and caring. She started dating Kyle in Season 2. As of Season 3, she attends a local college and works at the diner where Kristin used to work. Later that same season, she begins an online clothing business, selling her self-designed fashions which she assembles in the basement of her parents' house. Kyle asks her to marry him in Season 5, the 100th episode. She marries Kyle in Season 6, but they have yet to move out of the Baxter home. Up until she turned 21, a running gag on the show was Mike, Vanessa, and occasionally Kristin snatching glasses of alcohol out of Mandy's hand, usually followed by Mandy making a lame excuse. Ephraim was replaced by Molly McCook prior to the Season 7 revival on FOX due to Ephraim choosing not to return.
Kaitlyn Dever as Eve Baxter, (series regular, seasons 1-6; recurring, season 7) the youngest daughter: Eve is intelligent and athletic, and generally has the same interests as Mike, including camping, sports, guns, and the military. She also has conservative views like Mike. She is Mike's favorite daughter, and excels at her hobbies. She frequently outplays the boys in soccer and makes the boys' football team as their placekicker. She is well aware of being the favorite over her two sisters. Eve also shares her father's sense of humor, and her sarcastic wit is frequently directed at clueless sister Mandy. Eve is an excellent student, whose only weak subject is art, though she did have to change math classes to escape a prejudiced teacher. Eve is a member of Army Junior ROTC and works toward gaining admittance to West Point. Her attempt to do so is unsuccessful, which seriously depresses her, so in season six, Eve decides to take a "personal year" rather than immediately attend college. She spends some of this time singing and playing guitar for money, but this proves to be unfruitful. During her gap year, Eve applies to the Air Force Academy in nearby Colorado Springs (without telling either parent), and is accepted. Beginning in season seven, Airman Baxter is only a recurring character as she is now enrolled at the Academy.
Christoph Sanders as Kyle Anderson, a young employee at Outdoor Man: Kyle is universally recognized as a good guy. Kyle idolizes Mike, having grown up without a father figure. He takes care of his grandmother who has dementia, and it is implied he grew up in her home. His estranged mother passes away in season six, leaving Kyle with mixed feelings over how to deal with it. Kyle is often oblivious to social cues and is slow to catch on to the events happening around him. Kyle dated Kristin in season one and started dating Mandy in season two before proposing in season five, and marrying Mandy in season six. As of season seven, he has yet to level his mother's trailer or break ground on building his own home, while it has been implied that he and Mandy (but mostly Kyle) are trying to conceive a baby.
Héctor Elizondo as Edward "Ed" Alzate, Mike's longtime business partner: Ed started a bait and tackle shop many years ago and hired Mike, who helped turn the shop into the 20-store Outdoor Man chain. Ed is perhaps fifteen years older than Mike, but the two men bond over similar outdoor hobbies and shared conservative values. Mike regularly talks to Ed about the happenings in his home and occasionally seeks advice. Having been divorced four times, Ed's suggestions are rarely helpful. He also has five daughters. Ed is a Vietnam veteran, although he saw no combat in Vietnam, stating that he was a clerk in Saigon. He continues to help fellow veterans at the local Veterans of Foreign Wars hall with their Veteran Affairs paperwork. Ed is also a recurring target for jokes about his age and lack of hair, most often from Mike.
Flynn Morrison (regular, seasons 2-6), Jet Jurgensmeyer (season 7) and Evan and Luke Kruntchev (recurring, season 1) as Boyd Baxter, son of Kristin and Ryan: Mike enjoys spending quality time with his grandson Boyd, and affectionately views him as the son he never had. Mike and Ryan often clash on how he should be raised. Boyd enjoys activities encouraged by both his father and grandfather.
Jordan Masterson (regular, seasons 4-present; recurring, seasons 2-3) and Nick Jonas (guest star, season 1) as Ryan Vogelson, Boyd's Canadian father: Though Ryan initially fled when Kristin got pregnant, he returned to be involved in Boyd's upbringing, and eventually the two reconciled and got engaged (at the end of season 3). Ryan holds liberal views, both politically and philosophically, and he and Mike routinely clash over their fundamentally opposing values (mainly because Ryan's are illogical and often hypocritical), especially when it comes to child-rearing. Ryan wishes to raise his son without religion, hunting culture and nationalism, however, neither Mike nor Kristin agree with this approach. His vegan diet, views on discipline, and what Mike sees as his oversensitivity are an affront to Mike's beliefs, but Ryan generally enjoys being a thorn in Mike's side. On rare occasions, Ryan and Mike agree on what is best for Boyd, but this usually puts them at odds with Kristin or Vanessa. Mike comes to reluctantly respect and like his son-in-law for standing up for what he believes and for being a loving husband and father. Upon Bud Baxter's passing, Ryan assumes ownership and operation of the marijuana store.
Jonathan Adams as Chuck Larabee (regular, seasons 4-present; recurring, seasons 2-3), Mike and Vanessa's neighbor: Chuck is a retired U.S. Marine and a veteran of the first Gulf War who runs a private security business and later takes charge of security for the Denver Outdoor Man. Chuck is an African-American, and often jokes with Mike about racial stereotypes, and they regularly exchange barbs as if they don't like each other. In reality, they are good friends, despite being unwilling to admit it. Vanessa sees through their heated exchanges, often telling them to "get a room". Chuck's typical response to something or someone that exasperates him is, "not cool". Chuck is married to Carol and they have a son, Brandon, who is the same age as Eve.
Robert Forster as Bud Baxter (seasons 1, 3-4, 7), Mike's widower father who is initially in the construction business, but later opens a marijuana store ("Bud's Buds") after it becomes legal in Colorado. In season 7, it is revealed that Bud died of a heart attack.
Christina Moore as April (seasons 1 & 3), Vanessa's air-headed and immature younger sister. She is always asking for money.
Danielle Bisutti as Michelle (season 1), Vanessa's friend and next-door neighbor; she is a meteorologist who gets most of her data from a free phone app.
Erika Alexander as Carol Larabee (seasons 2-6), Chuck's wife and Mike and Vanessa's neighbor, who becomes Vanessa's best friend. Vanessa often goes overboard trying to act racially open-minded around her, but usually ends up looking foolish and annoying Carol. In season 6, Carol accepts a year-long job in California, leaving Chuck behind in Denver.
Carla Jimenez as Blanca Alvarez (seasons 2-4), the Baxters' Guatemalan-born housekeeper who also helps Mandy with her fashion business. The Baxters were happy to celebrate with Blanca after she was sworn in as an American citizen.
Sarah Gilman as Cammy Harris (seasons 2-6), Eve's soccer teammate and extremely chatty best friend.
Jonathan Taylor Thomas as John Baker (seasons 2-3), Kristin's boss at a fancy restaurant where she works. Thomas also had a cameo as "Randy" (a nod to his Home Improvement character) in the season 4 episode "Helen Potts", with fellow Home Improvement co-star Patricia Richardson. Since the writing out of John Baker, Jonathan Taylor Thomas has directed multiple episodes of the series.
Tye Sheridan as Justin (seasons 3-4), Eve's fellow Jr. ROTC member and football teammate who becomes her boyfriend. The two break up in season 4.
Zachary Gordon as Andrew (season 3), Eve's nerdy classmate who worships her and desperately wants to be her boyfriend.
Joely Fisher as Wendi Gracin (seasons 3-5), Ed's obnoxious younger girlfriend, whom he meets near the end of season three. Ed routinely has to put her in her place, particularly when she shows up at the store and tries to get involved in running his business (her agenda usually involves denigrating Mike). Wendi deserts Ed offscreen between Seasons 4 and 5, but the two patch things up and reunite.
Jay Leno as Joe Leonard (seasons 5-7), a semi-retired auto technician from whom Vanessa buys a classic car for Mike. Joe later works in the repair shop at Outdoor Man, servicing products like ATVs, snowmobiles and boat engines.
Travis Tope as Rob (season 6), Eve's boyfriend who is studying criminal justice at UC Boulder. He's a recovering alcoholic, which worries Mike and Vanessa when they first meet him.
Notable guest stars
Several notable guest stars have appeared throughout the series, including appearances made from cast members of Tim Allen's previous series, Home Improvement.
Last Man Standing first appeared on ABC's development slate in late 2010 when writer Jack Burditt received a put pilot commitment from the network under the original title Man Up. In January 2011, ABC green-lighted production of a pilot episode under the title Last Days of Man. On February 18, Tim Allen, who had been attached to the potential series from the beginning, officially joined the project in the lead role. At the end of March, Nancy Travis joined the cast in the leading female role as Allen's "smart and loving wife who doesn't miss much". Soon thereafter, Héctor Elizondo came on board in a supporting role as the boss to Allen's character.
On May 13, 2011, ABC picked up the pilot for the 2011-2012 television season under the new title Last Man Standing. On May 17, 2011, ABC announced that the series would air on Tuesday nights at 8 Eastern/7 Central. It debuted on October 11, 2011, with the first two episodes airing in a one-hour premiere.
On November 3, 2011, the series was picked up for a full season of twenty-two episodes. On January 12, 2012, the order was increased to twenty-four episodes.
On June 11, 2012, Tim Doyle was hired as the new showrunner of the series. Doyle was the third showrunner that the series had had since it entered production. Doyle replaced Kevin Abbott, who joined the staff as the showrunner mid-way in the first season. Abbott replaced series creator Jack Burditt, who was the showrunner for the first thirteen episodes. Unlike Burditt, who is no longer credited as an executive producer, Abbott continued to serve as an executive producer while showrunning the fellow ABC sitcom Malibu Country starring Reba McEntire. Both Last Man Standing and Malibu Country aired as a part of ABC's Friday night lineup for the 2012-2013 primetime television season. On November 8, 2012, Abbott re-joined the Last Man Standing crew full-time, after a stint in rehab, and gave Nastaran Dibai full showrunning duties of Malibu Country.
On June 11, 2012, it was announced that Alexandra Krosney (Kristin) was let go from the show for creative reasons. Krosney was replaced by Amanda Fuller in season 2. On June 19, 2012, it was also announced that twins Luke and Evan Kruntchev, who played the role of Boyd in season 1, would not be returning; they were replaced by Flynn Morrison in season 2. The character of Boyd was also age-advanced from two years old to five years old.Jordan Masterson plays Ryan, Boyd's father, in a recurring role beginning in season 2. The role was previously played by Nick Jonas, who guest-starred in one episode in season 1.
The second season initially received a 13-episode order. ABC announced on November 12, 2012, that an additional three scripts had been ordered. On November 27, five more episodes were ordered to bring the second-season episode total to 18.
On May 10, 2013, the series was renewed for a third season, which premiered on September 20, 2013, and ended on April 25, 2014, after 22 episodes.
On May 10, 2014, ABC renewed Last Man Standing for a fourth season, which premiered on October 3, 2014. Allen and Elizondo guest-starred as their Last Man Standing characters in a crossover episode with the fellow ABC Friday sitcom Cristela.
On May 10, 2015, ABC announced the show had been renewed for a fifth season. Last Man Standing had become a solid performer for the Friday night lineup at ABC, which with the help of Shark Tank and 20/20 has become the top network among adults 18-49 for the night. Leading off Friday night for ABC, the sitcom averaged a 1.8 rating in adults 18-49 and 8.2 million viewers overall, according to Nielsen's Live+7 estimates.
On May 13, 2016, ABC renewed the series for a sixth season, which premiered on September 23, 2016.
On May 10, 2017, ABC canceled Last Man Standing after six seasons, despite the series being the second-most-watched ABC sitcom during the 2016-17 season (based on Live+7 figures), with ratings remaining mostly steady during its sixth season. A representative for 20th Century Fox Television said cancellation decisions are made by ABC. "This was a scheduling decision," wrote Jori Arancio, senior vice president of ABC Entertainment and ABC Studios. ABC and its production partner for the show, 20th Century Fox Television, typically negotiate licensing fees prior to each season; however, the network decided to cancel the show without doing so. Also, the contract between 20th Century Fox Television and ABC for the show, in which 20th Century Fox Television covered the cost of production, had expired after six seasons. Had the series been renewed for a seventh season, ABC would have been required to pick up Last Man Standings production costs, which the network was unwilling to do.
The cancellation was met with outrage from the show's fans, many of whom took to social media to voice their displeasure and petition for another network to pick up the show. It also happened some months after lead actor Tim Allen (who is also a real-life Republican) said in an interview on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, that being a Republican in Hollywood is "like 1930s Germany. You gotta be real careful around here, you know. You'll get beat up if you don't believe what everybody believes". His comment was widely criticized, especially his comparing the treatment of Republicans in Hollywood with Nazi Germany.
A viewer petition on the website Change.org calling for ABC to reinstate Last Man Standing surpassed 380,000 signatures as of May 23, 2017. In a conference call with reporters earlier in May, ABC president Channing Dungey stated, "Last Man Standing was a challenging one for me, because it was a steady performer. Once we made the decision not to continue with comedy on Friday, it was just kind of that's where we landed." Dungey cited studio ownership, future creative direction, ratings and viewer engagement as all factors in her decision. A year later, the petition's signatures had grown to 438,000.
Tim Allen voiced his displeasure with the cancellation, tweeting on May 16, 2017: "Stunned and blindsided by the network I called home for the last six years."
On May 20, 2017, Howard Kurtzman, president of 20th Century Fox Television, reportedly showed some interest in his studio continuing to produce the show. "We're starting to explore that," Kurtzman said. "...[Fox Co-President] Jonnie [Davis] and I are hopeful that we can find another home for it."Variety also confirmed in an exclusive report that 20th Century Fox Television would shop the series to other networks and streaming services in hopes it would be picked up for a seventh season; another home was not quickly found, however.
In August 2017, Allen expressed his appreciation for support by the show's fans to bring it back, and said the talent behind the show had much more to add.
Revival on Fox
On May 3, 2018, Allen tweeted that a return "just might be a reality" and prompted the show's supporters to "keep it up". The same day, TVLine reported that Fox was "poised to" resurrect Last Man Standing for the 2018-19 TV season, adding that Tim Allen is "officially on board".Deadline Hollywood reported that Fox was in talks for another season, but it was "by no means a sure thing", suggesting it would depend on whether the actors could be re-signed "at reasonable salaries". On May 11, 2018, Fox TV's CEOs and chairmen announced that Fox had officially picked up Last Man Standing for a seventh season. Dana Walden, chairman of Fox Television Group, later hinted that the return of Last Man Standing was in part a response to the huge success of the Roseanne reboot on ABC earlier in 2018: "Obviously, I think everyone took a good, hard look at the performance of Roseanne. It did so well, and it certainly did remind us that we have a huge, iconic comedy star in our Fox family in Tim Allen."
On July 2, Fox announced that, in addition to Allen, series regulars Nancy Travis, Amanda Fuller, Hector Elizondo, Christoph Sanders, Jordan Masterson and Jonathan Adams had all signed on to appear in the season 7 reboot. Molly Ephraim and Flynn Morrison both opted not to return for the new season, with Fox announcing their roles ("Mandy" and "Boyd", respectively) would be recast ahead of season 7. On August 6, 2018, it was announced that Molly McCook and Jet Jurgensmeyer would be taking over the roles of Mandy and Boyd, respectively. The article also stated that Kaitlyn Dever, who recently signed on to play a lead role in the 2019 Netflix miniseries Unbelievable, will return as "Eve" in a recurring role only.
For the seventh season, the show airs in the same Friday night time slot as it did throughout its run on ABC; if it is renewed for an eighth season, it will be forced to move to a new time slot, as Fox has signed an agreement to air WWE SmackDown on Friday nights beginning in fall 2019.
On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, season one holds an approval rating of 15% based on 33 reviews, and an average rating of 4.14/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Last Man Standing is a thoroughly middling sitcom relying on jokes that feel alternately dated or hostile." On Metacritic, the season has a weighted average score of 33 out of 100, based on 24 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews".
The Hollywood Reporter called the series "a predictable sitcom with a stupid premise and bad acting".Los Angeles Times: "The jokes and plots have been efficiently constructed, but most have no traction; they slide right off you, and the characters themselves seem disconnected from one another."Entertainment Weekly offered a slightly more favorable review of the show: "When I look at the now-rounded softness of Tim Allen, and note once again how his sandpaper voice contrasts winningly with his hopeful eyes, it's impossible to plunge a shiv into this series."
Season two of the series holds an approval rating of 40% on Rotten Tomatoes. On Rotten Tomatoes, season seven holds an approval rating of 58% based on 12 reviews, and an average rating of 5.34/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Last Man Standing isn't the most realistic sitcom on the dial, but its idealistic representation of opposites living in harmony offers sorely needed hope during divided times." On Metacritic, the season has a weighted average score of 58 out of 100, based on 6 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".
Entertainment Weekly commented: "I think it's time the folks involved with Last take a closer look at All in the Family, in which the prejudice was built around real jokes."The A.V. Club: "The problem with Last Man Standings attempts to go political is exemplified by the first scene of the season première, which remains one of the most uncomfortable scenes of television I've ever watched ... doing its best to push buttons in the audience that don't need to be pushed, as if it thinks what made [Norman] Lear's sitcoms a success was the yelling or the mentions of social issues that people sometimes argued about."Philly.com wrote about season three: "The unlikely comeback vehicle for Tim Allen, Last Man Standing on ABC, is a thoroughly traditional, absolutely charming sitcom. [...] Last Man is both economical and efficient, getting excellent comic mileage out of the most marginal bit players."
ABC's series premiere of Last Man Standing drew a 3.5 adults 18-49 rating. That was 9% better than the 3.2 adults 18-49 rating for the series premiere of No Ordinary Family in the same time-slot the previous year (which was two weeks earlier in the season). Season 2 of Last Man Standing premiered with a 2.0, down about 38% from its first-season premiere, but up about 18% from the previous season's finale.
On September 3, 2015, it was announced that ABC Family (now Freeform) had obtained syndication rights to the series, which began airing episodes on September 28, 2015. As of 2018, Freeform no longer airs the series. On May 15, 2015, it was announced that Hallmark Channel had obtained the rights to the sitcom, and they aired the series from January 2016 until December 31, 2017. On September 4, 2015, the series joined the CMT Network with a mini-marathon of episodes. The series also joined WGN America on April 30, 2018. Five seasons were available for streaming on Netflix. Currently, all seven seasons are available for streaming on Hulu.
In the United Kingdom and Ireland, it premiered on October 9, 2012 on Sky One, which aired the first three seasons before dropping it due to low ratings; the show was bought by E4, where it premiered on March 13, 2017;Channel 4 then reran the program on Sunday mornings from July until September 2017; in 2018, 5STAR acquired the show for reruns.